Saw is the first installment of the Saw crime horror film series. Directed by James Wan and written by Wan and Leigh Whannell, Saw was filmed during only eighteen days of production. It was first shown at the Sundance Film Festival in early 2004 and saw international release later that year on October 29. Saw is essentially an expansion of Wan and Whannel's 2003 short film of the same name.
The film's story revolves around two men who are kidnapped, locked in an industrial bathroom and given instructions related to escaping. Meanwhile, police detectives investigate and attempt to apprehend the criminal responsible, the "Jigsaw Killer".
Originally rated NC-17 for strong, graphic violence, the film was slightly edited to achieve an R rating. The unrated version is available as the Saw: Uncut Edition, a DVD special edition that was released around the same time that Saw II was released theatrically.
In an industrial washroom, photographer Adam Faulkner (Leigh Whannell) and Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) are chained by their ankles to pipes at opposite corners. Between them is a corpse holding a revolver and a microcassette recorder. Lawrence and Adam discover tapes in turn saying "Play Me." From the tape, Adam is told that he must escape the bathroom, while Lawrence is told that he must kill Adam before six o'clock, or else his wife and daughter will be killed and he will be left to die where he sits. Hacksaws are soon discovered; neither is sufficiently sharp to cut through their chains, and Adam throws his away in agitated frustration. Lawrence realizes that the saws are not meant for the chains, instead for their feet.
Lawrence determines that their captor is the Jigsaw Killer, named due to his practice of cutting pieces of skin in the shape of a jigsaw puzzle piece from his victims, though Lawrence comments that the name is a misnomer, as he never directly murders anyone and his intentions are for his victims to survive with a better appreciation of life. A series of flashbacks of his previous victims is presented, including his only known survivor up to that point, a highly traumatized heroin addict named Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith). She believes that her experience in the test has made her a better person in the end.
As Adam and Lawrence search for alternative escape routes, Zep Hindle (Michael Emerson) breaks into the Gordon house and captures Lawrence's wife, Alison (Monica Potter), and daughter, Diana (Makenzie Vega) in order to save himself from a deadly poison. A flashback reveals that Zep is an orderly at Lawrence's hospital who was present when he was talking with some students about an elderly patient, John Kramer, who had terminal brain cancer. While psychologically toying with Alison and Diana, Zep monitors Adam and Lawrence through video surveillance.
Simultaneously, the house is being observed by Detective David Tapp (Danny Glover). Tapp grew unhealthily obsessed with the Jigsaw case after hearing Amanda's testimony, and, following a lead, he and his partner, Steven Sing (Ken Leung), illegally broke into a warehouse that turned out to be one of Jigsaw's lairs, where they saved a man from being killed by drills. Before they could secure Jigsaw's arrest, however, Sing was gunned down by a booby trap, and Jigsaw escaped. Tapp was later dismissed from the police force and is now stalking Lawrence, convinced from planted evidence that he is the Jigsaw Killer.
Meanwhile, in the bathroom, Lawrence finds a cell phone that can only receive calls. He and Adam try to stage Adam's death, but a strong electric shock through the latter's ankle chain foils this plan. Following these events, Adam and Lawrence recall their abductions; they were both ambushed and knocked unconscious by a stranger wearing a pig mask. Lawrence receives a call from Alison, who warns him that Adam knows more than he is telling. Adam explains that he had been paid by Tapp to trail and photograph Lawrence and shows him a pile of photographs that he found with the hacksaws. Lawrence begins to berate Adam, but grows defensive when Adam shows Lawrence evidence that he has been cheating on his wife. The two begin arguing, but are distracted when Adam notices a picture of Zep in Lawrence's house. They deduce that Zep is their abductor. Just as this realization is made, however, Adam points out that it is six o'clock, the deadline.
Allison frees herself from Zep, and a struggle ensues. Gunshots are fired, atracting the attention of Tapp, who distracts Zep long enough for Alison and her daughter to flee. Zep shoots Tapp fatally and races to the sewers, intent on killing Lawrence, who is only aware of the sounds of gunfire and screaming. Unable to reach the phone and desperate to help his family, he uses his hacksaw to cut off his foot and shoots Adam with the corpse's revolver, using a bullet that had been enclosed with his microcassette. Zep arrives to find Lawrence in tears. Before Zep can kill him, however, Adam springs from the floor, as his wound was in fact nonfatal, and beats Zep to death with a toilet tank cover. Lawrence slowly crawls away, promising to get help and return for Adam.
Adam searches Zep's body for a key, but finds another microcassette player. As the series theme, "Hello Zepp", begins to play, Adam learns that Zep was only a pawn in Jigsaw's game who acted under threat of death. He then hears a moan behind him and turns to see the "corpse" slowly get to its feet, revealing itself as John Kramer, (Tobin Bell) the Jigsaw Killer. John tells Adam that the key to the chain had been in the bathtub in which Adam had awakened when the movie began. The key went down the drain along with the bathwater when Adam, in his frantic thrashing, unplugged the stopper. Adam reaches for Zep's handgun, but John stuns him with another electrical shock from his hidden remote control. John flicks off the lights and muses, "Game over!" before slamming the door, sealing Adam in the bathroom.
|Cary Elwes||Dr. Lawrence Gordon|
|Leigh Whannell||Adam Faulkner|
|Danny Glover||Detective David Tapp|
|Monica Potter||Alison Gordon|
|Michael Emerson||Zep Hindle|
|Ken Leung||Detective Steven Sing|
|Makenzie Vega||Diana Gordon|
|Tobin Bell||John Kramer / Jigsaw Killer|
|Shawnee Smith||Amanda Young|
|Dina Meyer||Detective Allison Kerry|
|Alexandra Bokyun Chun||Carla|
|Mike Butters||Paul Stallberg|
|Paul Gutrecht||Mark Rodriguez|
|Oren Koules||Unnamed man|
Noted critic Roger Ebert called Saw "an efficiently made thriller" but "finally not quite worth the ordeal it puts us through." Other reviewers, however, were not so lenient, such as Paul Matwychuk, who described it as "convoluted" and its twist ending as "ludicrous".
Saw occupies the third slot on Bravo's Even Scarier Movie Moments for the scene in which Lawrence cuts off his own foot. This scene, Amanda's test and the razor wire maze scene were grouped among the scariest film scenes of all time on FilmSite.
The movie was also added on Empire's The 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time list.
However, in addition to the new footage, the dialogue between Lawrence and Adam in the end, just before Lawrence leaves, has been shortened.
There is also an Easter egg on the uncut DVD titled "See Saw in 60," which consists of three jumpy and humorous one-minute condensed versions of the film. Two are presented using dolls with crude faces drawn on them; sound clips from the movie are used for one, high-pitched squeaky voices for the other. The third is made using actual footage from the movie and the squeaky voices. Similar Easter eggs were used on later uncut releases of the sequels.